Vietnam’s association with the bleakness of war cast a veil of bad memories when the country is mentioned. However, rebuilding after destruction exhibits how strong the nation really is and speaks massively of the people living there.
Drawn by Vietnam’s at-times mysterious culture, French photographer Réhahn visits and took portraits fitting for Vietnam’s admirable people who are often overshadowed by the role they played in the war.
Réhahn got an overwhelming response after sharing Madam Xong’s photo to the world which then urged him to continue the Hidden Smile Project in Vietnam. Réhahn’s narrative goes as:
“Madam Xong, as she’s affectionately called by Réhahn is a sampan boat owner whose present day job is to ferry tourists along the waterways of her hometown, Hoi An. She was very warm and welcoming towards him. He asked her if he could take her portrait. With a shy response, she awkwardly obliged and after seeing her own photo, started giggling and covered her smile with one hand. This action inspired Réhahn to take another picture of her in this pose and then she covered her mouth with one hand and her forehead with the other pretending to hide.”
Réhahn was surprised that Vietnamese people cover their mouths when they laugh but started seeing that this gesture makes use of the whole face to show the positivity of smiling. He recounts that, “here in Vietnam, it’s common for elders to cover their mouths when they are speaking, giggling softly or laughing uncontrollably. When people are shy, they cover their mouths with their hands. A lot of older people in Vietnam, through hardships have lost their front teeth so they also cover their mouths. But besides this, look closely at the eyes, the hands and the face.”
Photo by Rehahn